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I’ll admit it. I’ve been bingeing lately. Not on chocolate or cookies (not that there’s anything wrong with that, lol). But on books. Young adult books. Works of fiction. I can’t help myself. In another installment of Books I Love on my Stressipes® blog, I thought I’d share my thoughts about a few recent reads. Warning: Most are about love and relationships, and other things that lend urgency and drama to childhood. I’m a sucker for it all.
While most of these titles are aimed at teens, I know each of them resonated with me. My guess is that they’ll appeal to people of all ages who enjoy realistic fiction with all the drama typical of adolescence.
So without further ado, here are seven titles I think are worth talking about. Some are new, while others have been around for a while. (No spoilers, I promise!)
1. Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli. This was the first book I read during my current binge. Although it’s not considered a young adult book, I read it to my husband husband over the course of a few drives last summer as our 12-year-old read it as part of his summer reading for school. Milkweed is about a little orphan boy who flies (mostly solo) through Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II the best way he knew how. The book simultaneously devastated me while filling my heart with love and hope. The book got under my skin, probably because I had family members who survived or were killed in the Holocaust. To this day, I think of the protagonist, Misha Pilsudsky. And my husband, son and I still bring him up in conversation from time to time. He inspires all of us. I loved the story so much but could not read the last page aloud without crying. Not just a drip or two, but a full out cry. It was that brilliant and moving.
Favorite lines: pages 207-208
“My daughter does not pester me with questions. She knows everything that I told her mother, which means everything but Janina. All those years of talking, all those street corners—I kept my sister to myself.
One time Katherine said to me, “Are you ever going to tell me why you named her Janina?”
“Someday,” I said.”
2. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I hope that Rowell (who doesn’t know me, by the way) doesn’t think I’m a stalker because I’m always posting tweets about her/this book. What can I say? A) I loved this book SO much, and B) We authors need to support one another (not that Rowell needs my help, lol). But back to the book: As a girl who grew up in suburbia the mid 1980’s, I could relate to many elements of the book. Especially to the story of young love and of falling in love. The characters are so beautifully written—I could see each of them in my mind. They are fully formed. And not just the main characters, but ALL of them including their parents and school friends (and enemies). I cannot wait to see this book on the big screen (thankfully, Rowell is writing the screenplay).
Favorite lines: pages 113 and 132
Eleanor: “Are you sure you want them to meet me?”
Park: “Yes,” he said. “I want everyone to meet you. You’re my favorite person of all time.”
“But Park’s face was like art. And not weird, ugly art either. Park had the sort of face you painted because you didn’t want history to forget it.”
3. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. I hadn’t even heard of this extremely successful author until I saw this movie last spring. I loved so much about the book including the unfolding of a love story between two teens (one struck with terminal cancer) and thoughtful discussions about the meaning of life e.g. is it better to be loved (but not really known) by many or deeply loved by a few? The unique story and endearing characters made this book so appealing to me. And it made me want to learn how to write in a way that also moves people. It really moved me. I hope to someday be in touch with him to personally thank him for inspiring me to carve a new professional path for myself!
Favorite lines: pages 31-32:
“I liked Augustus Waters. I really really really liked him. I liked the way his story ended with someone else. I liked his voice. I liked that he took existentially fraught free throws. I liked that he was a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment in the Department of Having a Voice That Made My Skin Feel More Like Skin.”
4. I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson. I’m sure like Rowell, Nelson (who also does not know me) doesn’t think I’m a stalker because I tweet to/about her so much. But I can’t help but share my love for this unbelievable book. I might otherwise burst! The book tells the story of Noah and Jude, twins, and the story unfolds going back and forth between Noah, at age 13, and Jude, at age 16. Everything about this book is EXTRAORDINARY and BRILLIANT. I can’t say enough about it. It’s like a gigantic poem with the most interesting and imaginative characters. Nelson does an unbelievable job allowing the reader to picture every movement in the main characters’ lives and every thought in their minds. The book lives on my bookshelf and I sometimes pick it up just to reread a few pages just because. It makes me feel a million different emotions all at once. The only real problem with the book is that it sets the bar SO high for all other YA books—or all other books, for that matter. It is simply BEYOND.
Favorite lines: pages 7 and 215
(told from Noah’s perspective): “Mom smiles at Jude and puts her hands on the table. I put mine on the table too, then realize I’m being a Mom-mirror and hide my hands in my lap. Mom’s contagious.”
(told from Jude’s perspective): “He’s looking at me in that way of his that should be illegal or patented and it’s affecting my ability to remember things like my name or my species and all the reasons a girl might go on a boy strike.”
5. Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins. This book was delightful. I really loved the story about Anna, a 17-year-old who’s forced by her parents to spend her senior year of high school in Paris. Sounds ideal, I know, but Anna was not on board with leaving her school, her life, her friends, and her hot crush to go somewhere where she knew no one. That is until she falls for someone. I won’t give the story away, but I will say that I love Perkins’ writing style is rich, sweet and satisfying like a warm cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream.
Favorite lines: page 42
“I spend the rest of lunch in a stall. I miss home so much that it physically hurts. My head throbs, my stomach is nauseous, and it’s all so unfair. I never asked to be sent here. I had my own friends and my own inside jokes and my own stolen kisses. I wish my parents had offered me the choice: “Would you like to spend your senior year in Atlanta or Paris?”
Who knows, maybe I would have picked Paris.
What my parents never considered is that I just wanted a choice.”
- 6. Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins. I finished this book today and loved it. It’s so engaging, so enjoyable, and I had trouble putting it down—especially after reading Anna and the French Kiss (another Perkins book that I finished last week in which Isla and Josh, the main characters in this book, are introduced). Isla goes to private school in France and spends summers in New York City. When her crush who recently broke up with his girlfriend enters the picture, things change—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Perkins does a great job fleshing out each character and unfolding the story. And the cameos by Josh’s friends (many of whom are main characters in Anna and the French Kiss) are an amazing and welcome element in this story about love, romance, and possibilities.
Favorite lines, page 45
“I think he likes me. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but I do know that it doesn’t matter anymore. It can’t matter. In physics, I feel his stare.—a string as delicate and gossamer as a spider’s web, gently tugging at the back of my skull. I imagine snipping it loose with a pair of sharp scizzors. I don’t know if he’ll try to talk to me after class, and I don’t know what I should say if he does.”
7. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han. This book was very sweet and I loved how unsent love letters to crushes are the story’s thread. Han writes in a best-friend kind of way that makes you want to continue on. She painted a vivid picture of The Song sisters and the love and complexity of such relationships. I never had a sister but I imagine Han’s portrayal of the Song sisters would resonate with many. And then there’s Josh…
Favorite lines: page 87
“Who’s the guy?”
“The guy you’re dating?”
That’s when I see him. Peter Kavinsky, walking down the hallway. Like magic. Beautiful, dark-haired Peter. He deserves background music, he looks so good. “Peter. Kavinsky. Peter Kavinsky!” The bell rings, and I sail past Josh. “I’ve gotta go! Talk later, Josh!””
What are your favorite young adult books?
Thanks for indulging me! Coming soon: another 7 titles of my recent YA reads.
If you have a published young adult book and would like to share it with me for possible mention/review on my blog, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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